Fairmont canine ambassador program promotes human-animal connection

April 8, 2019 by  
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It’s uncommon to see people flop down on the carpet in an upscale hotel lobby. But at the Fairmont Banff Springs on a Friday morning, a middle-aged woman from Indianapolis and two kids from Montreal are the latest of many to reject decorum when faced with Bear’s charms. The black lab gazes at them with liquid amber eyes while rolling over for a belly rub. It’s all in a day’s work for Bear, a canine ambassador who give travelers a dose of human-animal connection. The Fairmont’s canine ambassador program is spreading around the world, from Georgie, a yellow lab in Washington, DC to Tusker and Grammy, ridgeback/lab sisters at the Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club. About 16 dogs now work for the hotel chain. Some people might find it gimmicky, but travelers missing their pets are drawn to the dogs like magnets. In Banff, the floor of the VIP concierge area, Bear’s lair, is littered with toys brought by admirers. Related: Vegan dog food company continues its international expansion Symbiotic species Why do people like dogs so much that they lavish gifts upon a hotel’s canine ambassador while on vacation? Humans have probably hung out with dogs for somewhere between fourteen and forty thousand years, depending on which researcher you ask. Some scientists credit dogs with helping humans survive. It’s true they’ve guarded our lives and property, herded sheep, pulled sleds, shared warmth, helped hunt and even, in a pinch, provided babysitting services. Most pets don’t earn their keep in such tangible ways. But humans do expect emotional connection and interaction. Many humans prefer dogs to cats because Fido is more likely than Fluffy to enthusiastically greet them at the door. A recent study by Japanese animal behaviorist Takefumi Kikusui found that when humans and their dogs gazed into each other’s eyes for several minutes, oxytocin levels rose in both species. While it increased by up to 130 % in the dogs, the humans experienced up to a 300% percent boost of this emotionally bonding hormone. No wonder people feel like something’s missing if they don’t bring their dog on vacation. The making of an ambassador Of course, it takes a special kind of dog to be willing and able to provide so much love and support for throngs of strangers. Many of the Fairmont dogs are dropouts from the Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind program. They don’t make the final cut because of their personality or a health issue. Dropouts are usually too friendly and sociable to be seeing eye dogs. Laurent Pelletier, assistant director of food and beverage at the Fairmont Banff Springs , was considering adopting a family dog at the same time the hotel wanted to acquire a canine ambassador. “In a meeting, somebody asked would anyone be interested in being the dad,” Pelletier said. He and a few others staff members put their names in. Pelletier won, partly because he had dog-friendly attributes like a backyard and two children. When the day came, Canadian Guide Dogs put Bear on a plane from Ottawa. The whole family went to meet Bear at the airport. The lab/retriever mix spent a couple of weeks adjusting to his new home before he started his job. “He was extremely well behaved. But now he’s not as good,” Pelletier says affectionately while Bear mouths his hand. Bear started his job part time in fall of 2017. After about a month of staff walks, Bear was comfortable enough to start walking the guests. A Day in the Life Now Bear works fulltime from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., just like Pelletier. “It’s almost like he’s a human,” Pelletier says. “Some days he doesn’t want to get out of bed. I’m like ‘Bear, we’ve got to go.’” Bear spends most of his workday receiving visitors in the VIP concierge lounge. In winter , he might get a couple of guest walks per day. In the summer high season, they limit guest access to Bear. “There were days he barely got a break,” Pelletier says. Bear spends much of his day with Jason Lewis, VIP concierge and member of the acclaimed international concierge organization Les Clefs d’Or. Lewis grew up as more of a cat guy, in thrall to an enormous orange feline. But when asked what he gets out of his daily association with Bear, he answers immediately, “Happy. He’s company. He knows what’s going on.” Lewis manages Bear’s calendar, which includes walks with guests and occasional promotional appearances. Bear has a following of devoted fans and repeat visitors. “As soon as they book their room, they book a walk with Bear,” says Pelletier. Not only does Bear provide doggy affection, some people feel safer going on a trail with a dog. Sometimes Bear gets overwhelmed by guest attention. “You can see him tell you, ‘I’m over it,’” Lewis says. Bear slinks off behind the concierge counter when he needs a break, or holes up in Pelletier’s private office. Despite Bear’s extensive education and training, he’s still a normal dog. When he gets off work at five, he’ll play with his friend in the neighborhood, another black lab, or with Pelletier’s kids. “He’s a lot rougher with our kids than with the guest kids,” Pelletier says. “When he’s here, he’s at work. At home, he’s at home.” But even with the guests, Bear isn’t quite 100 percent domesticated. There’s still enough wildness in him to growl at a squirrel or dive into a snowbank. Images via Inhabitat

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Fairmont canine ambassador program promotes human-animal connection

New Humane Society report shows animal testing labs kill thousands of dogs annually

March 15, 2019 by  
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The Humane Society of the United States just released a report on their investigation into widespread animal testing. The inquiry lasted a little over three months and discovered that tens of thousands of dogs are being killed annually in the name of product testing . The study uncovered laboratories across the United States where scientists are using beagles and hounds to test toxicity levels in drugs, dental implants and pesticides . Over the course of 100 days, one undercover operative recorded almost two dozen animal experiments that featured dogs as the primary subjects. At the end of some of these studies, all of the dogs were terminated while others suffered throughout the trials. Related: Don’t forget to fight for these “less glamorous” endangered species One of the documented experiments involved 36 beagles and was commissioned by Dow AgroSciences. The company was testing pesticide use on the dogs and ordered researchers to force the poor animals to swallow fungicide pills. The study is scheduled to end this coming July, and any of the beagles that survive are going to be killed. Dow has issued a public statement about animal experimentation and confessed that these types of studies are not needed. The U.S. government has also stopped requiring animal testing on human products, so there is really no need for these dogs to be subjected to these terrible experiments. The reality, however, is that animal experiments are more widespread than people realize. “The disturbing findings at this facility are sadly not unique. Experiments are happening at hundreds of laboratories each year throughout the country, with more than 60,000 dogs suffering,” said Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Human Society of the United States. The undercover investigation was undertaken in a Michigan facility called Charles River Laboratories. Animal testing is carried out in similar facilities across the U.S., but also in government buildings, universities and for-profit institutions. Commercial breeders, such as Marshall BioResources, provide the majority of dogs used in animal testing. Apart from Dow, other companies linked in the investigation include Paredox Therapeutics and Above and Beyond NB LLC. By raising awareness about the issue, the Humane Society hopes to put an end to animal testing and find homes for the animals who have survived. Via Human Society of the United States Image via Shutterstock

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New Humane Society report shows animal testing labs kill thousands of dogs annually

Vegan dog food company continues its international expansion

March 8, 2019 by  
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V-planet , the San Francisco-based company that manufactures 100 percent vegan products for dogs, has just expanded its market to Israel. Israeli shoppers can now buy vegan pet food through Vegpet , v-planet’s online store. Why Israel? “Israel is one of the most vegan-friendly countries in the world, with more self-identified vegans per capita than any other country,” said Lindsay Rubin, vice president of v-dog. “With so many consumers interested in transitioning their dogs to a vegan diet, expanding our brand to Israel to offer a high-quality option to dog parents seemed like a natural fit for our brand.” Since 2005, the vegan-owned and family-operated business has offered its plant-based kibble to a U.S. clientele. Its international expansion now makes v-dog available in Canada, Australia and Israel. Related: Can vegan pet food be good for the planet and your pet? Switching dogs to vegan kibble could have a significant effect on the planet. “A 2019 study stated that if dogs and cats were a country, they’d rank fifth in global meat consumption,” Rubin told Inhabitat. “Caring for a large dog is environmentally comparable to driving an SUV. Pets are responsible for a quarter of the greenhouse gases from animal agriculture. Just like a human choosing a plant-based lifestyle, a dog can significantly reduce their carbon pawprint by going vegan.” By contrast, plant-based ingredients naturally use significantly less land, water and energy than meat-based counterparts, she said. According to Rubin, vegan dogs thrive. Customers have reported reduced allergies , better digestion, less arthritis and other joint inflammation issues and better overall health and energy after switching their dogs to a vegan diet. Still, it is  important to talk with a veterinarian  before making drastic changes to your furry friend’s diet, as it must be done very cautiously. The brand hopes to grow internationally and is actively seeking additional distributors in more countries. “At v-planet, we’re passionate about nutritious, yummy products for dogs that are cruelty-free and environmentally sustainable,” Rubin said. “We hope that by continuing to expand v-planet’s availability, we can help more dogs and save more farmed animals.” + v-planet Images via v-dog / v-planet

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Vegan dog food company continues its international expansion

Maryland just banned the sale of puppies and kittens in pet stores

April 24, 2018 by  
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Maryland just became the second state in America to ban pet stores from selling puppies and kittens. Animal rights advocates say the move will help cut demand for animals from puppy mills . The bill, HB 1662 , also encourages pet stores to work with rescue groups and animal shelters to promote the adoption of homeless animals, according to The Humane Society . Maryland’s Governor Larry Hogan signed the legislation into law with bipartisan support. The state already has regulations in place requiring stores to reveal breeder information, and stores cannot use breeders that the United States Department of Agriculture has cited in the last two years. But delegate Benjamin Kramer, a Democrat who sponsored the legislation, told The Washington Post the regulations aren’t enough to protect animals. Related: California bans puppy mills and requires all pet stores to sell rescue animals Pet store owners fought against the law, hoping Hogan would veto it. Just Puppies co-owner Jeanea Thomson said her store doesn’t want animals from puppy mills, and that she and her husband visit their breeders, most in Iowa and Missouri, to vouch for conditions. But Kramer said the farms that store owners describe are abominations, telling The Washington Post, “There is not a single one that is this righteous, beautiful, loving, caring facility where there is room for puppies to roam and for breeding dogs to play.” Humane Society Maryland state director Emily Hovermale described the ban as a lifesaving measure that would close the state’s pet store market to puppy mills. She said, “Maryland has set an important precedent with this rejection of animal abuse that other states will surely follow.” Emily McCobb, a professor at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, said a ban could result in a dog shortage, and people might not be sure where to go to get a pet. “There’s a lot of messaging around ‘adopt, don’t shop,’” she said. “But we haven’t done a good job of messaging about how to find responsible breeders.” The law will fully go into effect in 2020. It follows a bill passed in California last year that requires all pet stores to sell rescue animals. + The Humane Society Via The Washington Post Images via Depositphotos and Lydia Torrey on Unsplash

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Maryland just banned the sale of puppies and kittens in pet stores

Chernobyl’s abandoned dogs create their own exclusion zone community

February 6, 2018 by  
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If you ever happen to visit Chernobyl , you might run across one of the around 300 stray dogs that reside there. After the 1986 disaster, residents weren’t allowed to bring their pets away with them, and many dogs were left behind. Today, their descendants still roam the area, and while their life isn’t easy, The Guardian reports they are “a playful example of global kindness and cooperation.” Around 300 stray dogs reside in the 2,600 square kilometer – or around 1,004 square mile – exclusion zone at Chernobyl in Ukraine . The Chernobyl Prayer, an oral history of the time, talks about “dogs howling, trying to get on the buses. Mongrels, alsatians. The soldiers were pushing them out again, kicking them. They ran after the buses for ages.” Soldiers went in to shoot the abandoned animals ; The Guardian reports some heartbroken families pinned notes on their doors asking the squads not to kill their pets. Related: China is building a giant solar plant at Chernobyl Some dogs did survive, and it’s their descendants who live there today. Their lives are short and hard – with “increased levels of radiation in their fur” and a diminished life expectancy. Many of the animals don’t live past six years old, according to The Guardian. But here’s where the hope comes in: guards have created small huts for dogs residing near checkpoints. United States nonprofit organization Clean Futures Fund put up three veterinary clinics nearby – one is inside the plant. They’re vaccinating and neutering the dogs, and handle emergencies. You can read more about their work and donate here . Chernobyl tour company Solo East Travel guide Nadezhda Starodub told The Guardian visitors love the animals, and she does, too. There are no rules against touching them, and she just asks visitors to use the same common sense they would around strays. The dogs have come to serve as unofficial Chernobyl mascots. Via The Guardian Images courtesy of Solo East Travel

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Chernobyl’s abandoned dogs create their own exclusion zone community

IKEA is offering furniture for pets – and it’s adorable

October 10, 2017 by  
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It’s here – the modern, inexpensive pet furniture of your dreams. IKEA is now selling furniture and accessories for dogs and cats , and they’re just as well-designed and affordable as the company’s furniture for humans. From a cute cat house to a cozy dog bed, you’ll drool over the Swedish giant’s pet collection . Pets are members of the family to many people, and IKEA said they were inspired by that sentiment to create the LURVIG – Swedish for ‘hairy’ – line of pet furniture. They got a little input from veterinarians to design their pet collection “so you and your pet can enjoy your home together.” LURVIG “covers all the bases of our shared life with pets indoors and out.” Related: Light-filled home for book lovers and their cute cats is built of recycled materials Pets can snuggle in on IKEA’s $49.99 pet bed , which looks like a mini couch for a cat or dog. There’s a $19.99 pet blanket , to minimize fur on the couch or car seat. The most expensive item in the new collection is a $54.98 cat house on legs that comes with a pad inside. A cheaper $5.99 cat house can even be incorporated with human furniture – it fits inside the open squares of a KALLAX shelf unit. There are also several inexpensive accessories that would be ideal for someone getting their first pet, including food and water bowls ranging from $0.79 to $4.99 and a $7.99 water dispenser. There’s a $4.99 litter tray, and $3.99 brush. IKEA is also offering several different dog leashes, with reflective, retractable, and anti-shock options – and even a cat leash if you have aspirations of grandeur. An IKEA spokesperson told Mashable the LURVIG collection had its pilot launch the beginning of October in five countries: the United States, Canada, France, Japan, and Portugal. You can check out the entire collection here . + IKEA Pets Via Mashable Images via IKEA

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IKEA is offering furniture for pets – and it’s adorable

This man has saved over 700 stray dogs in China over the last 8 years

September 18, 2017 by  
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Zhou Yusong is a dog’s best friend. Over the last eight years, Yusong has rescued over 700 stray dogs and given them homes at his animal protection center China’s Henan Province. Though he didn’t intend on becoming the “Guardian of Dogs,” this is what he is called in his home city of Zhengzhou. It all started in 2008, when Zhou Yusong was walking down a road in Zhengzhou and noticed a stray dog that had clearly been hit by a car. It was fighting for its life, yet was ignored by those who passed by. Yusong was unable to ignore the frightened animal, so he picked it up and took it to a nearby dog shelter as he could never care for it in his tiny apartment. When the man reached the shelter, he was overwhelmed by the large number of stray dogs that had already been collected. To ease the shelter’s burden, he began donating 200 yuan ($30) every month to support the dogs’ food and medical treatments. Inspired to do more, Yusong later convinced his friend to invest 800,000 yuan ($122,000 USD) in a new animal shelter . It would be located on the banks of the Yellow River and care for the abundance of stray dogs. His friend agreed and allowed Yusong to be in charge of the facility. Within a short period of time, the animal lover quit his job and began managing the rescue center full-time. Related: South Korea’s President adopts rescue puppy, saving it from the dog meat trade To date, Yusong has rescued over 700 stray dogs, as well as a number of other small and medium-sized animals. Over the past eight years, he hasn’t taken a single vacation, as he is dedicated to ensuring all of the dogs are well taken care of. To reduce the shelter’s costs, Yusong also manages maintenance work, which includes fixing fences and trimming the bushes. He spends the remainder of his time feeding the dogs, cleaning up their kennels, and administering various medical treatments . Though Yusong wasn’t seeking recognition for his work, the world couldn’t help but give it to him after photographs of him and hundreds of dogs went viral on social media. Via Oddity Central ,  Xwtuotiao Images via  Xwtuotiao

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This man has saved over 700 stray dogs in China over the last 8 years

New Orleans golf course transformed into citys biggest urban farm with an Eco-Campus

September 18, 2017 by  
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A former golf course in New Orleans’ City Park has been transformed into the city’s biggest urban farm— Grow Dat Youth Farm . The seven-acre sustainable farming nonprofit features a low-energy Eco-Campus built with seven recycled shipping containers and designed by Tulane University architecture students. The urban farming and leadership program teaches local youth how to sustainably grow fruits and veggies that are then sold to CSAs, local restaurants, and markets, as well as donated to neighborhoods lacking access to healthy, fresh food. Founded in 2012, Grow Dat Youth Farm wants to do much more than grow delicious chemical-free food. The nonprofit farm’s central mission is to bring local youth and adults from different backgrounds together in a safe collaborative environment where they can learn how to grow their own food and develop personal, social, and environmental change. Most of the educational workshops take place within the Eco-Campus, a simple low-energy structure with an open-air classroom, two climate-controlled offices, kitchen, bathroom with composting toilets , and storage. A bioswale under the front timber walkway prevents flooding and manages water sustainably. The City Park birding corridor runs along the side of farm and provides a more wild contrast to the farmed environment. Grow Dat Youth Farm has a long-term lease for seven acres of land in New Orlean’s City Park and is currently growing on two acres with plans for expansion. Formerly a golf course that had been uninhabited before Katrina, the site comprised very sandy or mostly clay soils—poor conditions for farming. The team remediated the soil with lots of organic matter—mainly a mixture of coffee grounds, processed dried sugar cane, and chicken manure—and use crop rotations to add minerals back into the earth. Today, the diversified farm grows over 50 varieties of fruits and vegetables, from avocados and satsuma to beets and kale. “Food justice is a big part of who we are,” said Michael Kantor, Interim Director at Grow Dat Youth Farm, who stressed the program’s primary purpose to develop youth leadership skills. “Black farmers in particular have historically been marginalized so we create opportunities here to give young people of different races the chance to take control of food production, either here or in their neighborhoods, and increase access to fresh healthy produce—something many New Orleans neighborhoods do not have.” Grow Dat Youth Farm partners with nine local schools to recruit around 60 high school students annually. Starting January, these youth Crew Members participate in a paid, five-month leadership program held after school and on Saturday that prioritizes diversity and inclusion. The program time is evenly split between lessons on sustainable food , cooking, and farming, and team-building and leadership exercises. Graduates of the program are invited to enroll in the next tiered leadership position as Assistant Crew Leaders; a fellowship program brings in extra help around the year. Related: Inspiring urban farm teaches kids how to grow their own organic food “Our farm is pretty active from September to June,” said Michael. “That’s when we’re harvesting crops for the CSA , our main distribution channel that starts in October, or for the Crescent City Farmers Market or farm stand. We’ve also sold to restaurants and have been in Whole Foods too. We donate 30% of our food to households without access through our Shared Harvest program.” Grow Dat Youth Farm has donated over 26,000 pounds of food. In addition to funding from grants, donors, and market sales, Grow Dat Youth Farm raises funds through their seasonal farm dinners , where they invite celebrated local chefs to cook up locally focused, family-style meals on the farm. This year’s first farm dinner, on September 28, features chefs from Cochon and Peche, while the October 8th dinner features a chef from Shaya. Tickets are still available for these farm dinners. Learn more information about Grow Dat Youth Farm by following the link below. + Grow Dat Youth Farm Images © Lucy Wang

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New Orleans golf course transformed into citys biggest urban farm with an Eco-Campus

Shocking investigation reveals 70,000 dogs in Bali murdered and served to tourists every year

June 19, 2017 by  
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Each year 70,000 dogs are brutally killed in Bali , Indonesia, according to an investigation spearheaded by Animals Australia (AA). The animals are strangled, bludgeoned, or poisoned and then fed to tourists who think they’re eating chicken meat. AA estimates seven times more dogs are killed in Bali yearly than in the Yulin Dog-Eating Festival in China. Evidence obtained by ABC’s 7.30 program revealed a huge dog meat trade in Bali. An AA undercover investigator spent four months posing as a documentary maker to uncover details about the trade. Known simply as ‘Luke,’ the investigator said he started by getting to know key players in the unregulated industry, and “eventually, they invited me to join them as their gangs stole, hunted, poisoned, and killed dogs.” Related: Dogs raised for meat in South Korea to get forever homes in the US AA campaign director Lyn White said, “Tourists will walk down a street, they’ll see a street store selling satay but what they are not realizing is the letters RW on the store mean it is dog meat being served. They’re just sitting down ordering satay have no idea that they’re eating dog.” And it’s not just street vendors selling the meat to tourists as chicken, but restaurants as well. The Bali Animal Welfare Association, an organization working to rescue the animals from dog traders, has discovered 70 restaurants serving dog meat. It’s not illegal to consume dog meat in Bali. But White said it is illegal to kill animals cruelly or to consume meat tainted with poison. Luke described aggressive methods and said although he’s trained himself to cope with cruelty, in one village where he saw dogs being caught, nothing had prepared him for the brutality. On one occasion he witnessed hunters catching dogs by laying out fish meat laced with cyanide. For the first time in his career, he switched off his camera as he watched a puppy die over agonizing minutes. He said, “I sat stroking him as he died and found myself apologizing for the cruelty of my fellow man.” According to ABC, while some local people think dog meat is healthy, the practice isn’t a long-held tradition. Hindu leader Gusti Ngurah Harta is among those working to end the trade – he said Bali Hindus consider dogs to be a holy animal and that it’s upsetting people are eating them. AA is willing to partner with the Bali government to end the trade and find a positive solution, which may include compensating those who make their living in the trade. You can sign their petition for the governor of Bali here . Via Animals Australia , ABC , and International Business Times Images via Pexels and Pixabay

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Shocking investigation reveals 70,000 dogs in Bali murdered and served to tourists every year

New study reveals plastic pollution in the Antarctic is 5x worse than expected

June 19, 2017 by  
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We know about plastic pollution in the Pacific Ocean , and even in the Arctic Ocean . But scientists thought the Antarctic was relatively free of that particular type of pollution until a recent study from the University of Hull , Científica del Sur University , and the British Antarctic Survey . Researchers discovered the levels of microplastics in the area are much greater than expected. Microplastic levels in the Antarctic are five times greater than anticipated, according to the international team. Microplastics are those tiny particles less than five millimeters in diameter found in personal care items like toothpaste and shampoo, but they can also come from clothing fibers or be created as larger pieces of plastic in the ocean break down. Related: One of the world’s most remote islands is also the most polluted The researchers found the plastic around the Antarctic continent and in the Southern Ocean , which is around 8.5 million square miles large. They think plastic originating outside the area may be coming in over the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, which scientists in the past considered nearly impassible. University of Hull scientist Catherine Waller, lead author on a study published this year in Science of the Total Environment , said the ecosystem of the Antarctic is very fragile, and the area was thought to be isolated. It’s populated with krill that might eat the microplastics, and in turn be consumed by larger marine mammals like whales . Co-author Claire Waluda of the British Antarctic Survey said in a statement, “We have monitored the presence of large plastic items in Antarctica for over 30 years. While we know that bigger pieces of plastic can be ingested by seabirds or cause entanglements in seals, the effects of microplastics on marine animals in the Southern Ocean are as yet unknown.” The scientists called for urgent international monitoring of the plastic in the Antarctic. Via British Antarctic Survey Images via Catherine Waller and Claire Waluda

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